Tapoco dam to get new generators, turbines, transformers
From Staff Reports
ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. — The Tapoco Project is changing hands, but its future is firmly in place as ALCOA and U.S. Department of Energy officials met at Cheoah Dam to commission a $110 million modernization initiative.
The modernization effort, kicked off in August 2010, has increased the dam’s efficiency and energy output and increased the life of the facility by at least another 40 to 50 years, according to the aluminum company.
In June, ALCOA announced an agreement to sell the Tapoco Project to Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.
On Tuesday, ALCOA and DOE officials got a first-hand look at improvements made to the dam that is one of four hydroelectric dams that make up Alcoa Power Generating Inc.’s (APGI) Tapoco Project.
“This project demonstrates a partnership and cooperation among private industry and government to protect and sustain renewable energy for future generations,” said Mark Gross, Alcoa Power Generating Inc. Hydro Operations manager. “The Cheoah Modernization project directly supports green energy growth, the use of renewable energy resources and enhanced recreational opportunities.”
DOE objectives for the project specified that ultimately, the full four-unit modernization would result in a 28 percent increase in generating capacity.
“We are pleased to be able to announce that Cheoah Dam has actually demonstrated a 50 percent increase — from 88 MW to 132 MW,” Gross said in a prepared statement.
In addition to the capacity improvements, the modernization efforts have eliminated the use of circuit breaker oil and minimized the need for transformer oil, resulting in a net decrease in total oil volume in high voltage equipment of almost 40,000 gallons. And by using air-cooled transformers, cooling water requirements have dropped by 122,000 gallons per day.
The modernization project received a jump start when the U.S. Department of Energy awarded ALCOA a $12.95 million grant as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy issued the grant.
U.S. Department of Energy representatives — Matthew Hess, Renewable Energy Technologies Project officer; and Erik Mauer, Wind & Water Power Program senior engineer — joined Gross at the commissioning ceremony.
Four dams included
The overall project includes upgrades to four of the dam’s five power generation units, along with process and utility systems, such as transformers, switchgear, power and control wiring, piping and fire protection equipment.
Another two units will be upgraded during phase two of the project and are estimated to be completed by spring of 2013.
The Cheoah Dam hydroelectric project, located on the Little Tennessee River in Graham and Swain counties in North Carolina, was the first built by the Tallassee Power Co., now called Tapoco.
Construction began in 1916 and was finished in 1919. At the time of completion, Cheoah was the world’s highest overflow dam at 225 feet. The dam was made famous by serving as the backdrop of the jump scene in the 1993 motion picture, “The Fugitive,” starring Harrison Ford.